Monday, February 17, 2014

To Be Found Peculiar Among the Peculiar People: A convert's story continues...

The Search Continues...

As I begin to think about this post, I remember my near lifelong quest to find religion. I am struck by two main thoughts: One is how young I was when I felt the need to go on my personal religious quest, and Two, how I never once thought there could be no religion, no God. When I was about 15 years old, I talked to my best friend about my search. She blankly and truthfully brought up something I never considered. What if, when we die, there's nothing...just dirt and worms and nothing...
I thought about this concept for a while until I understood what I was thinking and feeling. I felt that this idea was wrong. It didn't make sense to my soul. I just knew something had to be out there, someone waiting for me, to return and report.

My search had several stops and starts. I would either hit a wall or land in a comfortable place before I was mature enough to keep looking. By "mature" I mean, to not give up just because things became difficult or I became lax.

After being told once again I did not belong in yet another faith, I grew distraught. I gave up on Christianity because I thought the reason I was pushed out was because I was in the wrong main faith altogether! I studied Islam where rituals were comforting and familiar. I studied Buddhism of many sorts and found it beautiful and fulfilling. I stayed within the more Eastern religions for a few years. During that time I found myself, somewhat. I found some self-made limitations and learn to conquer most of them. I learned how to be and stay calm. In many ways I found forgiveness that went deeper than I had learned in the past. But I still had the yearning to find exactly where I belonged or a place where everything made sense.

I was at a forum where I heard a great Buddhist leader speaking. It was a chance of a lifetime! One of his main focuses is to bring people of ALL faiths together and show us how we are alike. To bring a sense of community for all mankind. In his opening remarks he acknowledged several faiths by validating each of their religious leaders. One of the last ones he mentioned caught me by surprise. He stated that he knew that Jesus was the Christ.

I heard nothing else. I got up and had to leave (discretely). My whole existence was thrown off! And now I had to start at square one...again!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

To Be Found Peculiar Among the Peculiar People: A convert's story continues...

The Search

I have been asked the who, what, how, and why with regards to my joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now I will tell you in written form...

As I look back now, it seems strange to realize that I had been searching for a place that felt right, a place where I belonged since I was about 9 years old. I came to the conclusion that the only place I would belong would be in a church or specific faith or religion. My family never made it a priority to truly attend or subscribe to a specific faith, just to have any place to go when we felt the need was all that was required. As a family we visited and attended Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Baptist, Catholic... Each time, we stayed for a while until we moved or my mother wasn't interested any longer for whatever reason. My father seemed content wherever he went or even if he went at all. He wasn't against church or religion, he was a hard working man that wanted his days off to be void of any hassle (and if you attend ANY church, it's a hassle -- kids, spouse, car, time....)

When I was a teenager my mother was ready for a philosophy change and we went in search of new church. We landed in a local church for a while until she had conflicts within and I attended on my own. I made friends, I had good times, good memories with the people of this church. But like any family there were disagreements and harsh words. I started to come less and less frequently until the last time I came, the pastor took me aside and suggested that this particular church wasn't for me and asked me to leave.


I was hurt but it wasn't the first time this had happened to me. As a kid, I was asked not to come back to a church-run school. I asked too many questions... In the another church I was told I was "Satan's temptress" and told to leave... I was also told that if holy water ever touched me it would burn me.

I will freely admit I was not a good person. Maybe I was on the inside, maybe my spirit was good, but my actions were not. When I was 18 years old I went wild like a Disney child star. I did things I am not proud of and regret. But after a while the yearning to belong in a spiritual way pulled at my soul. Only, I didn't know how to begin. I searched with my mother in the past, but I had been away from home some time now and my mother stopped searching long ago. So I looked to the only people I knew that could help me with such a huge life-changing decision: celebrities!

I thought that Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley were smart and spiritual people that looked to have their lives in order, so why not try out their faith. I went to a local library and met with some very nice people who wanted to tell me more. I listened and was intrigued. I had only been by there a couple of times when I started to feel this might not be for me. Not anything remotely wrong with anything it just didn't feel right. This feeling is difficult to explain unless you have had first-hand experience but it's like trying to explain Love. It just is, you just are...I don't know...

A couple of weeks later I sat in my car going over my life choices with a good friend and well... this happened. But there were a few weeks of self-discovery and spiritual awakening. Maybe another post...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

To Be Found Peculiar Among the Peculiar People: A convert's story part 5

Before the age of 22, I could tell you the amount of times I cried on one hand. After 22: too numerous to count! It seems that ever since I have been baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I can cry at just about anything. To sound all cool and churchy I could say it's because of the gift of the Holy Ghost and that my heart is now broken and being put together and pricked in the way Heavenly Father needs it to be.

This is also where I would tell you I know I'm a nothing, a nobody, but again the Spirit corrects me and tells me I am of royalty. No, I'm not Cleopatra reincarnated, but that I am a daughter of God! And by being a daughter of God He has given me special gifts. We are all this cool because He gives all of us gifts. And like the scripture on the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) I must share them to increase those talents or gifts. When I share any talent I often feel very exposed. I feel as if I make one false note or step or do any part of it wrong, I am being judged harshly. I was treated thus by some people throughout the years and it always makes me second guess myself and my talents.

Often I feel overwhelmed by the Spirit because these gifts are so sacred to me (again with my sacred, not secret stuff). One sure-fire way to get me all choked up is to have me sing. It almost doesn't matter what song it is, if it has meaning or messages I cry. I also cry when talking about my hardships and trials because believe it or not, those are also sacred to me.

Today in church I sang "The Olive Tree" with a couple of awesome friends. When singing in a group I don't choke as often but when it comes to a solo...all bets are off. If any of you have ever heard me "sing" in church before you can guess what happened this time. Luckily it was at the very end and just a tiny part, but I just could not hold back those darn tears!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

To Be Found Peculiar Among the Peculiar People: A convert's story part 4

I guess the polite way to describe my baptism is that it was "intimate". Another word would be "sacred" (yet another one of those sacred not secret events but again, feel free to ask in person). I was unsure of how it was supposed to go but it was my first step into the knowledge that my Father in Heaven knew me as an His own.

I had been baptized a few times by other churches on my path to discover where it was I truly belonged and which faith in fact had all the answers I was looking for. I had never intended to join the LDS faith, in fact, I had every intention to say no when asked to investigate further.

I never knew what a "Mormon" was until I was about 18 years old. I had a friend in high school who was Mormon but never knew what my friends meant when they said they don't hang out with her because she was one. It wasn't until I had moved in with family that I finally understood more about these Peculiar people. I would never fully understand until I fully committed myself to the faith.

When my friend Becca and I were talking about my life and the next steps I should take, one night in my car, she boldly asked if I would talk with the Missionaries. Like I said, I had every intention of saying, "no thank you," but what came out of my mouth surprised the both of us. I simply said, "yes," and three weeks later I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So many things happened during those three weeks, but that's another story....

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

To Be Found Peculiar Among the Peculiar People: A convert's story part 3

Being Peculiar inside a peculiar world, I have had my share of Ups and Downs...

--Not exactly being welcomed into The Fold

--Finding not only acceptance but Love where it was least expected (I was warned or at least cautioned in a similar fashion for both the Single's ward and Idaho)

--Discovering my kind of Peculiar was not appreciated in every ward

--Becoming a better and stronger person on my own and in the Gospel despite it all

Saturday, February 1, 2014

To Be Found Peculiar Among the Peculiar People: A convert's story part 2

Many people on both sides of the Wall anticipated my departure from the LDS church long ago.

Despite (or maybe because) I was considered Golden by the Missionaries, I wasn't one thought to have staying power. I had friends from my past and people in the Church that gave me three months and then I'd be out of there! took me four...

Having very little support from anywhere in my early beginnings of the Church made it more than difficult at times to stay Strong. It wasn't until I was at a wild and crazy (a la Hollywood style) New Year's Eve party that I felt the Strength and power to boldly stand firm in the Gospel. (This is one of the few things I don't publicly speak on BUT if you ask in person I will tell you. It's not secret, it's sacred.)
think ^this but bigger, louder, and INSANE

My life in or out of the Gospel did not become easier from that point on, it got harder. In fact, it took me four more years for me to have the Strength to stand upright, Tall and Strong having finally fought personal Demons and a very large monkey (dare I say Gorilla) off my back.

Only five years young in the Church and I still used others testimonies as a crutch for my own. It would be so for nearly another year until one Magical summer changed it all. (*cue flashback music*)

The Summer of Christine. No, my name is not Christine but a good friend of mine--Christine--was learning how to stand on her own two feet and by example, so was I. I think only those closely involved during that summer's events can properly convey and understand the feelings, thoughts, EVERYTHING...or maybe it was just me. Either way, it was another one of those Sacred not Secret events for me that shaped me for the better.

I had finally learned to love myself.